ACA Re-Enrollment after Living Abroad

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One of the issues facing US citizens temporarily living abroad involves the ability to purchase health insurance upon their return.  And with the prevalence of university “study abroad” programs nowadays, this situation can be more relevant than one would think.

Most people who temporarily move to other countries cancel their US health coverage, as it is not valid away from the US.  However, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare”, in order to obtain a new health plan prior to January 1, most US citizens are required to maintain a compliant insurance plan that meets the Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC).  Unfortunately, short term insurance plans, travel insurance plans, and even expatriate health insurance plans are not ACA compliant; therefore, they do not count towards maintaining Minimum Essential Coverage.

Now, if a US citizen spends at least 330 full days outside the U.S. during a given calendar year, he or she is exempt from maintaining ACA compliant health insurance.  And it IS allowable to re-enroll within 60 days of losing coverage.  But for US citizens who live abroad for more than 60 days but less than 330 days, the situation can be frustrating.  Although there are provisions in the law for a Special Enrollment Period, none address moving back to the US without a current MEC plan.

So, it may be wise to consider keeping current coverage in force while away from the US, or purchase a short-term health insurance plan upon returning.  However, keep in mind that plans such as this are medically underwritten, meaning that the existence of chronic conditions or pre-existing conditions could result in denial of certain claims, or even ineligibility.